The Legacy of Josh McDowell

On Saturday, May 1, 2010, Josh McDowell will be speaking at the church which I’ve been attending. My plans are to be in attendance with the others from this area, and it will be the sixth time that I’ve heard him in person. The last time was several years ago when he travelled to various churches warning about the faulty scholarship lying behind the story in The Da Vinci Code. The first four times were in the fall of 1975, when he came to Miami University, during the first semester of my freshman year.

I would have to say that he was the first speaker that I heard that gave both a strong intellectual and apologetic foundation to the Christian faith, and yet with a real joy and enthusiasm and evangelistic fervor. Though I had both Edwin Yamauchi and Ravi Zacharias for professors, Josh’s apologetic and evangelistic ministry gave me a genuine foundation in the reasonable foundation of faith in Christ. And though I’ve read through a number of other defenses of the historicity of the resurrection of Christ, I have never come across one which did not cover pretty much the same ground and reasons as Josh did. And his ministry communicated to me then, as a college freshman, not much over one year since my conversion, in a way which others may not have done so at the time. He communicated to us where we were, neither talking above our heads nor down to us as anything less than adults.

Josh also spoke several times on marriage, sex and dating to us. For those who later came to know his ministry through the Why Wait? campaign in the 1980s, he had already been ministering to us through the scripture and with the candor of his own life and experiences long before that campaign started. For those of us in the sexual pressure of the modern university, his guidance and candor definitely helped to bolster a desire to honor God in our lives in the areas of marriage, sex and dating during those years.

Though Josh’s ministry did lead to my purchasing his books, I found them to be the gateway to a number of other authors that I would find helpful over the years through his numerous quotations and references: C. S. Lewis, Kenneth Kitchen, Norman Geisler among others. In addition, the inclusion of the experiences of well known believers as corroboration of the life changing power of the gospel introduced me to the lives of believers such as Sadhu Sundar Singh.

In these days of high tech advertisement, the students who were part of Campus Crusade for Christ found a very low tech and very effective way of advertising. Every morning, they would go throughout the classrooms and lecture halls and write on a blackboard off to the side something like, “Josh is coming!” These announcements piqued interest yet were very unobtrusive. I can’t remember a single professor or student who either found them offensive or intrusive upon the learning process. And the campus was very well prepared for his arrival.

I don’t know how many came to Christ through his ministry during those days, but I do know that many believers also were strengthened in their faith and in their desires to live to glorify God in their dating lives during that time. I don’t think that our campus and my fellow believers are alone by any means in having been blessed by his ministry during those days.


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